13 – Extant

The nautilus shell
is complicated.

Mathematical —
its presentation
logarithmic,
mirror of the
greatest storms,
the largest galaxies…
Miraculous!

Its whole wide whorl
compartmentalized,
with past lives
in secret chambers —
where poetry is found
no less.

The poetry of time,
this old soul,
reminder of
roots and bones,
our beginnings
and our end.

Poem ©2018, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month 2018, #13. If you like this poem, you’ll find 80 more the book EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND! Purchased your signed copy today! CLICK HERE

Are you complicating what is really simple?

If coyote has shown up, you may wish to ask yourself…Are you being too serious? Have you forgotten that play time is essential to health? Are you complicating what is really simple? — Ted Andrews, Animal Speak

I.

From the trailhead…
the colonnade of maple
the brook, the path sub rosa
the slight overlook
  the
  hill
a shaded crest
relieves the wearied
disappearing
a slow curved decent
to somewhere else.

II.

Here, the primeval sweep
reveals its community…
tree and shrub and vine
glade and pond, stand
silent in the morning still
but pine song and robin trills
an earthy incense lingers
on low draped mist
revealing change
  night to day
  weary to worship
then sudden breath.

III.

We see each other
suddenly, unstartled…
I heard you singing
I say to her without words
Yes, she nods, and I
heard you breathing

We stand as if in prayer
silent, heads bowed
Can I stay with you?
Greet the day on all fours
howl at the world
rising with the southern wind?
But she is suddenly shadow
  or ghost
  or dream
Namaste, I whisper
heading east to meet the sun.

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Jen Payne. Click here to buy your copy today! ©2017, Jen Payne
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GUEST BLOG POST: The Bravery of Storytelling

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Writers Pay It Forward, sharing my thoughts on…

THE BRAVERY OF STORYTELLING

Several years ago, I was meeting with a client I hadn’t seen in a few years. We started with the usual Hi. How are You? I’m Fine. How are You? small talk protocol, but then she saw a reliquary hanging on the wall in my office.

The reliquary — traditionally a container for holy objects — was a mixed-media collage I had created. Within the shadowbox frame was a painting of an angel, decorated panels, pieces of a poem, and symbols: an alpha and omega, a feather, a heart. An artist herself, my client asked about the piece, and I told her the story of lost love and deep sadness that had inspired it.

When I was done, she took my hand and thanked me. Then she told me her story — the disappointment that had shaken everything she thought she knew, her attempts to heal, and how the process changed her.

So there we were, two almost-strangers, pushing through the ordinary to the extra-ordinary moments in our lives. There was no protocol for the rest of our meeting that day, instead we talked about our common experiences, the different paths, the shared emotions.

“If we can sit together and talk about what’s important to us, we begin to come alive,” writes Margaret J. Wheatley in her book Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. “When we’re brave enough to risk a conversation, we have the chance to rediscover what it means to be human.”

Ultimately, isn’t that our charge as artists? As writers? To communicate the human experience — to bravely tell our own stories in an effort to share, to teach, to connect with others.

Make no mistake — it takes courage. It takes courage to be honest, to talk about love and loss, about success and disappointment. You have to be brave to talk about your passions and fears — both out loud and in your creative work. Writing, creating art, is not for the faint of heart. No. Writing, creating any kind of art that tells our story, takes big, brave hearts. It is from that place, from that wide open courageous place, that we create what is indeed, holy.

(Image: Divine Inspiration, mixed-media collage, by Jen Payne. Quotes from Wheatley, Margaret J., Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 2012.)

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Everything is Connected

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Create Write Now, sharing my thoughts on…

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” — John Muir

In a dream once, I saw the fabric of the Universe. It was clearly laid out in fine strands of translucent white dots, as if one were standing inside a room full of beaded curtains.

In the first few moments after waking, I understood clearly that everything is connected: how, if I touched one of the rows of white dots, that touch would reverberate along the whole system of dots; if I breathed or sang or wept, that too would make waves along those strands.

My understanding of all of that was as fleeting as my ability to still my mind, as transient as my understanding of god. And yet, the image of those dots has remained for me a divine illustration of how it is.

Everything is connected.

Some of our basic tenets as humans remind us of that: “for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction,” and “as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Remember the Golden Rule? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What if that applies to everything?

It is not such a foreign concept. We know that everything around us is made up of atoms. That there is no real separation between you, me, this book, my cat. John Muir wrote about it that summer day in 1869: “One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell.” Carl Sagan called it starstuff. “It’s an astonishing thing,” he said, “we’re so tied to the rest of the cosmos.”

My new book, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, is a book about starstuff. It’s a collection of poems that speak to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet.

Part social commentary, part lament, the poems are, at their heart, love poems to the something greater within all of us. Their investigation of the human condition and its folly — politics, religion, development, technology, consumerism — is juxtaposed to a series of poems about our natural world and the possibility of divine connection. Together, they ask the reader to deeply consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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BOOK REVIEW: Nicole Pyles Reviews Evidence of Flossing

“I was so impressed with this book. It conveyed a beauty and yet sadness at the same time. I could sense the spiritual struggle within the poetry and a reflection of the world around (and the masks society often puts forward). This book is definitely a conversation piece and I can’t wait to share it with others.” — Nicole Pyles, World of My Imagination

>> Click Here to read the full review!


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: The Importance of Retreat

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Lauren Scharhag’s blog, sharing my thoughts on…

THE IMPORTANCE OF RETREAT

BUG OUT! That’s what they called it on the TV show M*A*S*H. The enemy is getting closer, someone yells “Bug Out!” and everyone, everywhere packs up everything and bolts!

I use the same word, often, when it’s time to get away for a while. BUG OUT! You know that feeling, right? You’ve been working really hard, your To Do list hasn’t gotten any shorter, you can’t seem to get enough sleep, and coffee just isn’t working its usual magic.

It’s time to Retreat! Regroup! Withdraw! Escape!

I don’t think the battlefront vocabulary is all that off-base. We live in a world of battles — time, technology, schedules, workloads, deadlines. If you’re a creative type, somewhere in all of that you must also make room for the Muse who feeds your soul. And if your Muse is anything like mine, she lets you know when she’s hungry for more attention!

In the Scientific American article “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” (https://tinyurl.com/j7v6kyj) writer Ferris Jabr details study after study that confirm the importance of taking time off. He concludes that “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.”

But we can’t all be like author Elizabeth Gilbert —a little overwhelmed, take a year off and travel the world to Eat Pray Love our way back to our creative selves. Not everyone has that luxury.

But here’s what I’ve learned about downtime…

IF…I give myself just a half hour to meditate or take a nap or walk in the woods? My Muse breathes.

IF…I give myself a day off, like a Sunday-Sabbath-resting day off? Then my Muse dances.

And IF…I am so lucky as to be able to take a true retreat — a suitcase, off-the-grid, away-from-things retreat — my Muse will pack up her stuff and come along with me. We’ll see things with fresh eyes, we’ll come up with new ideas, and we’ll start speaking to each other again.

CLICK HERE to read the whole post.

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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Words, Crazy Words Reviews Evidence of Flossing

“Payne’s other work as an essayist is evident in many of the narrative poems. Strong sense of place and point of view carry the individual poems as a cohesive whole. This collection is one I will turn to again and again. I anticipate greater appreciation for this thoughtful collection each time.” — Tara Huck, Words, Crazy Words

CLICK HERE to read the full review!

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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WOW! Women on Writing Interviews Jen Payne

from THE MUFFIN
WOW! Women on Writing
by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
(Click here for the WOW! Book Tour Launch and Give-away)


WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book Evidence of Flossing! What was the first book you fell in love with? And why?

Jen: There are two books I remember loving as a kid. One was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. It’s about four orphaned children who end up living in an abandoned boxcar in the woods. It seemed so idyllic…living in the forest, eating wild blueberries for supper, making cool things from found objects. The other book was The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis—oddly enough also about four young children who have magical adventures in the woods!

I had a big imagination as a kid, and parents who insisted I play outside. Plus I grew up along the shoreline in Connecticut, and there were always places to explore: beaches, marshes, trails through woods. So, I pretended I was like the Alden children living in the woods, or Lucy finding her way to Narnia.

Sprinkle in a little Winnie the Pooh and Emily Dickinson, then later in life Thoreau’s Walden, and I guess you could say I always looked to the woods and nature for inspiration.


WOW: Sounds like we would have made excellent friends as a kid! We had similar tastes in books! So, when did you know you wanted to be an author? What was the first thing you wrote that made you feel inspired to pursue writing?

Jen: I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. My dad traveled a lot for business, and we used to write letters to each other when he was away—I think that’s where it started.

I had a ton of pen pals, too, back when you still did things like that. There was a television show called the Big Blue Marble. I belonged to their Pen Pal Club and wrote to kids in England, Belgium, France, Trinidad, and Korea.

And I’ve always written that way… not made-up stories, but real life experiences. I wrote for my high school newspaper. Studied journalism at UMass. My first job was writing press releases and advertising copy. So, my writing is very much based on that nonfiction foundation, though more creative nonfiction, or nonfiction prose.

WHEN did I know I wanted to be an author? I used to talk about writing “the great American novel” but I could never figure out how my writing fit that genre. Then, about six years ago, a friend of mine suggested my blog writings would make a great book. That’s how LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness came about—that’s the book I published in 2014. It’s a collection of my blog posts.


WOW: I really love that you turned your blog writing into a book! Your blog turned out to be quite the muse for you! What are your books about?

Jen: Both books, really, are about reconnecting with nature, about appreciating the gifts of our planet. LOOK UP! tells the story of my own journey. It’s organized like a journal, and includes a collection of my essays and photographs, plus a bunch of quotes by famous naturalists, philosophers, and writers who have considered the same topics of mindfulness and our connection with the natural world.

Evidence of Flossing is what happened next. After the journey. It’s an examination of the contradictions and tragedies of our everyday world compared to the organic rhythms and beauty of the natural world. But this book is all poetry—73 original poems—plus a quirky series of photographs of discarded dental flossers and other original photos.


WOW: I love how you merge both creative outlets in your book – photography and poetry. Let’s talk time management – you own a graphic design company, write books, find time for poetry reading events, book launches, etc…how do you do it all and how do you do it with a smile on your face? What advice can you give to others who struggle with time management and juggling it all?

Jen: Good question! I have a smile on my face – most of the time – because I truly love what I do. I love my day job and I love my writing life. They feed me. I think it’s easier to make time for things that feed you.

Usually.

My secrets? I get up super early – like I don’t want to tell you how early. And for me, those quiet, early morning hours are the best time to get good work done.

Coffee. Also a good thing. (And always from a Wonder Woman mug.)

Yoga or a long walk in the woods—please, yes.

And then, I eat frogs.

Have you heard of this? It’s a technique from motivational speaker Brian Tracy, who says that if you tackle the most difficult things on your To Do list first, it creates momentum for other things to get done more easily. A friend shared the video with me a few years ago (https://youtu.be/0W7GB5Fh2XM) and it’s really changed how I approach my day. Especially when I am up-to-my-eyeballs busy!

My advice to others? Oh dear, well…find your super powers (like getting up early), go for a walk, invest in 3×5 cards, drink coffee, and eat frogs when necessary.


WOW: I will most definitely have to look up the eating frogs idea later. You’re all about conversations (me too) – so imagine the current you is having coffee and conversations with the teenage you…what advice would you give yourself?

Jen: That would be a LONG conversation, probably involving a little finger wagging—don’t start smoking; more books/more writing/less boys; travel not chachkies. The usual hindsight things.

And then…there is a great parable in Ram Dass’ Journey of Awakening that tells the story of a king who asks his people to come up with something that would make him happy when he was sad, and sad when he was happy. The winner presents the king with a ring, the inscription reading “This Too Shall Pass.”

So, that: Don’t worry. Be happy. This too shall pass.


WOW: I’d definitely be telling myself something similar if I could sit my teenage-self down over coffee! So, what’s next for you? You certainly aren’t the “sit around and wait for life to happen” person – so where can we expect to see you next?

Jen: You’re right there! Actually, I’ve been thinking about publishing a short story I wrote called Water Under the Bridge. It’s an epistolary novel told through a series of emails.

But more immediately, I want to do an art exhibit of the (dental) flosser photos from Evidence of Flossing — maybe in the spring. I just think they deserve their own time and place outside of the book. They have a story to tell.

Don’t we all?


WOW: We do! I truly believe that. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today and we can’t wait to see the feedback come in from the book tour about your book Evidence of Flossing!

Jen: Thanks Crystal – it’s been great to talk to you. Thank you for helping to launch the book’s blog tour today!

CLICK HERE for the WOW! Book Tour Launch and Give-away

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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Epiphany

Before sleep had left bones
with dreams still whispering,
as fleeting as the sunrise,
for one short ray of understanding

Without need for scripture or sacrifice,
tithe, temple or testament.
No spokesperson or man behind a curtain
pulling levers of smoke and smite

Not all-knowing, all-powerful,
no rules and regulations in 6-point type.
Just you and me and our daily bread:
how we love one another

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Jen Payne. Click here to buy your copy today! ©2017, Jen Payne

The Promise of More

Oh good, I just read
we’ll have a new store!
I was worried a moment:
where would I buy more?

More trinkets and whatnots,
more must-haves and then,
not one or two thingies
but eight, nine…no TEN!

Ten more things to purchase,
ten more for display,
ten more for the storage
I rented today.

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Jen Payne. Click here to buy your copy today! ©2017, Jen Payne